A few days ago, we spent some hours cleaning out our little corner of the shop. Not little shop, just my little corner. It's the corner that my in-laws nag me about because it's loaded with our stuff. I'm not going to say anything snippy about it being OUR shop (since we bought the farm and all and nobody else makes any payments) it's just that the one corner is something I'm always getting picked on about because I have stuff there. Stuff. Just things that have traveled along on my life journey with me. Mine.
Long story short - when our shop floods in the winter (doesn't happen too often) but when it did last time, it was never completely cleaned out. We're always too busy after a flood to sweep the shop - it goes at the bottom of the list, know what I mean? Somewhere below wringing out goats, fluffing up chickens and mopping seventy times a day. So, the floors were left to dry naturally and whatever silt seeped under the doors made a nice dust covered floor that could possibly keep a sparse lawn in place. Some of the shop floor is raised and doesn't get wet - that's where my stuff was. So naturally, after I had about an 8 foot by 4 foot section all nice and decluttered, I wanted to make the floor clean too. So, I swept it. It was after dark, and I had only a little bit of light in there, but I could see dust - and when I swept there was no more dust. I felt so good to make a clean spot! Yay me!!
It felt good until the next morning anyway, when I realized all that dust went into my lungs and was sitting there like a gooey lump of mud. It's been three days now, and everytime I cough, only the equivalent to one dust particle comes up at a time. Steam helps - so I've been on a hot tea diet.
Yesterday was a little bit better, so I decided to keep up the hot tea diet and I went to put the pot on to boil. Now this newfangled, completely digital, touch pad display on my stove is great, if you like runway lights in your kitchen. I don't complain though because I picked it out. So I shoved the leftover pan from the night before aside, grumbling at one daughter or another who neglected to clean it up, and I started the burner for the water. I then went about composing a rather lengthy letter to a family member, knowing that my teapot would alert me when it was ready. All during the letter writing, I thought I heard strange noises. My dog alerts me to strange noises that I need to pay attention to, and since he kept sleeping, I just kept writing. Then I realized that the noise continued, and it sounded as if it were inside the house. We've had just enough critters running loose, that I figured it was worth checking out.
I would describe the noise as a popping and squeaking sound. For your reference, it's exactly the kind of noise you would hear if you were to put a partial pan of refried beans on the stove, use the turbo-boil setting, and just let it go. The popping noise was those little beans exploding and when their skins were torn off, the squeaking was their screams of horror. The pasty bean substance on the sides of the pan (because it wasn't a FULL pan of beans of course!) was burning, then crackling off of the stainless steel, and making a very potent billow of smoke at the same time. Too bad it wasn't Halloween... I had my own (do NOT try this at home) smoke machine! Wait till I tell the kids!
Covering my mouth and nose with my shirt (just like they taught us in elementary school) and waving my arms to clear the air so I could see, I made my way into the kitchen to grope for the handle of the pan. I forgot to think that maybe I should have grabbed a different piece of clothing than the one I was actually wearing to put on my face, because when I ran back and forth with that pan, trying to figure out how to get the door open without removing my shirt from my face, I'm pretty sure I flashed our neighbors. (Betcha I looked smokin'!) I finally put the pan back down on the stove, opened the door, and then went to relocate the pan outside onto the deck. On a hot pad, of course, because I didn't want to mar the surface of our deck. *sigh*
Windows flung open, fans going, air conditioner on high and doors wide open all day still did not remove the nasty stench of a near kitchen fire. I soon realized that smoke inhalation coupled with the gummy dust layer in my lungs was causing me quite a bit of grief. All self-inflicted grief, of course. Not to give in to defeat, I decided to help eliminate the smell on this fine rainy afternoon. I had the perfect solution. I'd make cupcakes! Dark chocolate cupcakes would counteract the burned bean smell and my family would be coming home happier today (instead of their usual gagging behavior). I was sure of it.
The meticulously prepared cupcakes were placed, ever so carefully, into the lower oven on my new range and I proceeded to wait the appropriate nineteen minutes. The instant that timer went off, I lept to my feet and (without spraining anything) hurried to the kitchen to see what glorious delights awaited my eyes. I bent down and quickly pulled the oven door open. Instead of seeing delicious little cupcakes, I was met with a face full of heat and steam that instantly loosened seven layers of the dust and smoke in my lungs while simultaneously clamping my eyes shut and melting my eyelashes together.
My top lip now feels like I've just got a fresh wax, my forehead is really shiny and my nose feels like I just got back from a day at the lake without sunscreen. I'm not really sure if there's more damage, as I still can't focus through my steam-cleaned contact lenses, but I'm pretty sure my eyelashes would have just dropped off my face entirely if it wasn't for the mascara holding them firmly in place. The bad news is that neither of our smoke alarms went off. That is alarming. The good news is that the cupcakes turned out just fine. From what I can see anyway.